Grow Up, Portland

Why the Apartment Buildings You Hate Are Good For the City.


They pop up seemingly overnight, multiplying faster than food carts on every street corner in the city.

Just a whisper of them transforms normally mild-mannered Portlanders into fire-breathing Trotskyites. Politicians and economists can't stomp them out. They make the rent too damn high.

No, we're not talking about all these new apartment buildings.

We're talking about the myths, misconceptions and misinformation too many people spread about all these new apartment buildings

No contemporary Portland phenomenon, except perhaps Carrie Brownstein, has been as regularly and unfairly slandered in the past year than the beige-and-cream bunkers landing like alien pods equipped with Little Big Burgers.

Witness, for example, the hot-as-hell anger over a Web commercial for a new building, Burnside 26, and the even more intense response two weeks ago when one writer, Tyler Hurst, on defended his decision to live there.

And then there are those "truths" about all these new apartments—that they are ruining Portland.

WW wrote about the apartment crunch four years ago, and, at the time, experts said the market wasn’t yet ready for a building boom of new units (“Renter’s Hell,” WW, Dec. 7, 2011).

Developers built 4,413 rental units last year, says real-estate brokerage Marcus & Millichap—the most added here in more than a decade. They're on pace to erect 6,100 units this year.

And it's true that Portland faces a serious problem with the cost of housing. The average rent for an apartment in Portland jumped into the thousand-dollar-a-month club last year. It's at $1,070 a month, a 7 percent jump in a year.

What is really going on here?

We invited Hurst to expand on his online post that lit a fuse with so many people outraged by the apartment boom, examining the uncomfortable truths behind all the anger.

And we peel back the myths about the boom itself and look at the well-meaning but nonetheless wrong ideas about housing. Our apartment buildings—for years low-slung and affordable—are growing up and, for many, out of reach.

Grow Up, Portland:  

WWeek 2015

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